Since 2001, BIPAI's Romanian Clinical Center of Excellence has provided HIV/AIDS care and treatment services to more than 500 HIV-infected and HIV-exposed children and young adults. BIPAI Romania operates a clinical center of excellence (COE) in Constanta, two offices for rapid testing and counseling in Constanta and Tulcea, (the country’s first) and a protected housing complex for homeless youth.
Children in Romania account for more than half of all European pediatric AIDS cases. Most Romanian children with AIDS were infected with HIV as a result of discarded medical practices of the past, including reuse of disposable needles and repeated transfusions of sick and premature infants with whole human blood.
However, a second epidemic wave is emerging, with most Romanian HIV treatment centers reporting growing numbers of infants with vertical (mother-to-infant) HIV infection. Approximately 50% of Romanian children with AIDS are orphaned or abandoned. BIPAI has worked collaboratively with the Romanian Ministry of Health and Romanian professionals since 1996.
First in the BIPAI network
The most mature of BIPAI’s programs, Romania, opened the first COE and has the oldest patient population. As a result, BIPAI Romania continues to focus on successful methods for transitioning HIV+ adolescents to adult care and meeting the health needs of its patients and their families.
In 2007 BIPAI Romania began providing health services that need to be provided concurrently with HIV treatment, namely, dentistry, gynecology and tuberculosis treatment. In 2009, BIPAI Romania widened its mission to include medical services for other infectious diseases with similar transmission and lifestyle issues, and began laying the foundation to offer prevention and testing services for hepatitis B and C.
It also transitioned Flower House, once its home for HIV+ orphans, into a residence for homeless young adults where they can learn independent living skills in a safe environment. A requirement of residency is that the young person should go to school or work. For example, nineteen youths were housed during 2009-2010.
Psychosocial support plays a major role in BIPAI Romania’s services, as with any program caring for teens and young adults who live with HIV. In 2009-2010, 73 percent of patients sought some form of psychological or social support. The Romania team also often helps prevent medical discrimination by accompanying and representing its patients to other local services when necessary.
Hepatitis and HIV testing centers
Its free testing and counseling offices in Constanta and Tulcea have been well received by both patients and the local medical community with service requests growing rapidly. Clients receive pre- and post-test counseling and referrals to appropriate health services, largely from volunteers. Since its inception in 2007, more than 160,000 persons have been tested in Constanta and Tulcea, with prevalence rates of 5% for HVB, 4% for HCV, and 0.2% for HIV. These offices have also distributed thousands of free condoms and literature about safe sex, HIV prevention, and pregnancy prevention.
BIPAI Romania expends considerable effort in fighting stigma by hosting public events and producing educational materials. One such effort, a short film about a teen unaware of his HIV diagnosis, was finished in 2009-2010. The film was designed to answer common questions as well as serve as a pretext for approaching the subjects of prevention, testing and healthy living.
BIPAI Romania’s center of excellence hosts an extensive web site, along a site on HIV testing
Sustaining funding for the Centrul de Copii Romano-American has been provided by Abbott Laboratories and the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word.
To view the BIPAI Romania 10 year anniversary website, please visit: www.excelenta-hiv.ro/en/